Korea can advance by beating rival
Kim recognizes defending-champ Japan as strongest team
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
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SAN DIEGO -- In the U.S., the biggest baseball rivalry is Yankees-Red Sox. Around the rest of the world, it could be Korea-Japan.
The two clubs meet for the sixth time -- third this year -- in World Baseball Classic play on Tuesday at 11 p.m. ET at PETCO Park, the scene of Japan's 6-0 semifinal victory over Korea in 2006. Left-hander Jung Keun Bong will start for Korea vs. Japan right-hander Yu Darvish.
"Within Asia, Asian baseball, within that realm, Korea and Japan would be the biggest rivalry," Japanese manager Tatsunori Hara said. "But in terms of baseball, the game started in America and we're trying to catch up with American baseball. And we're trying to surpass American baseball. That would be the biggest goal.
"This is what I think -- to go catch up with American baseball and go beyond."
In the double-elimination format, Tuesday night's winner would move on to the semifinals this weekend at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The loser plays Cuba in an elimination game on Wednesday night.
Korea and Japan met twice in the Asian bracket, with the teams splitting the pair of games. Japan clinched a spot in the second round with a 14-2 win, and Korea won the seeding game, 1-0.
"In Tokyo, we lost one and we won one," Korean manager In Sik Kim said. "Now that we're in San Diego, we're going to play them again. We came here and we knew Japan had the strongest team. So we came here to play with them. We have to do our best. That's what I think."
Korea, now 4-1 in this Classic, is 10-2 over the course of the two tournaments, the best overall record of any team. Japan was 5-3 in 2006, and is now 8-4 over the course of the two events, although the Japanese defeated Cuba in '06 to win the inaugural Classic.
Hara said on Monday that he was grateful for Kim's comment about the Japanese team.
"The Korean team, and manager Kim, is more experienced than me in terms of baseball," said Hara, the manager of the Yomiuri Giants who replaced Sadaharu Oh, the skipper of the '06 Japanese Classic championship team. "The manager said something nice about Team Japan, and that was very nice of him to say that."